Rhizomes: Availability, Selection, and Storage
Rhizomes can be found as roots in some Asian grocery stores, farmers markets and natural food stores (gingerroot can even be found in many chain grocery stores). In spice form, ginger and tumeric can be found in almost any food store.
When ripe, galangal should be ivory white and firm with very little separation between skin and flesh. Never buy galangal that is wrinkled or shriveled. Store refrigerated uncut and unwrapped for up to 3 weeks or, peel the root and place it in a jar of sherry and store it refrigerated for several months. Galangal can be frozen if tightly wrapped in foil.
Ginger is available year-round. When selecting gingerroot, choose robust firm roots with a spicy fragrance and smooth skin. Gingerroot should not be cracked or withered. It can be stored tightly wrapped in a paper towel or plastic wrap (or put into a plastic bag) in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks and like galangal, gingerroot can also be placed in a jar of sherry and refrigerated for 3-6 months.
Fresh tumeric roots should have a spicy fragrance and stubby fingers protruding from the sides of the root. Refrigerate unpeeled tumeric, tightly wrapped, for 3 weeks.
Galangal can be sliced and used to flavor soups and stews (remove before serving). It can also be mixed with lemon grass, chilies, shallots and garlic into a paste that can be used to flavor rice dishes. Galangal can also be mixed into a curry paste for similar purposes.
Peel skin from the root and gently peel the skin beneath (that closest to the root is the most flavorful). Gingerroot can be sliced or minced (minced gingerroot gives the most pungent flavor). Ginger is popular in Asian cuisine where it is used both fresh and dried. Ginger can also be found crystallized, candied, preserved and pickled.
The powdered, dried form of ginger has a more spicy, intense flavor and is often used in baking (gingerbread, gingersnaps, ginger cookies).
Tumeric is typically boiled or steamed and then dried and ground into powder. Use ground tumeric in fish or rice dishes. Be careful with fresh turmeric, it will stain your hands and clothing.
Saffron (very expensive) is sometimes substituted for tumeric.
Include Rhizomes to spice your 5 to 9 A Day Plan!
- Ginger can be used raw or cooked; use sparingly at first to become acquainted with the pungent taste.
- Chop ginger finely and sauté with garlic as a flavor base for oriental stir-fries.
- Add powdered tumeric to rice dishes for coloring and flavor.
- Soups and stews can be flavored with tumeric.